BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Memorial Day was observed in Bloomfield on Monday, May 27, with a Broad Street parade from Brookside Park to the Civic Center and a reviewing stand on the Green. Although the weather was a perfect introduction to summer, there were not as many spectators along the parade route as in recent years. But for those who showed up, the holiday provided a 99-year-old grand marshal and two thoughtful speeches.
The grand marshal was lifelong resident Thomas Stivale, 99, of Walnut Street. A WWII veteran, Stivale is a former POW. An Army paratrooper, he was captured in Sicily after a jump and incarcerated in central Germany for almost two years.
The veteran’s address was given by James Wolner, a Vietnam War veteran and Bloomfield High School graduate, Class of 1964. Often seen at township events in a motorized wheelchair, he stood for his address.
As an historian, Wolner spoke about the origins of the holiday as Decoration Day and it first being observed officially, in 1971, as the last Monday in May. Prior to this, Memorial Day was always May 30.
As a veteran, he spoke of the memory of fellow-soldiers and high school friends dying in far-off rice paddies.
His words were controlled but the tears behind them were evident. He reminded his audience that these men did not just die in combat years ago, but to this day they die from war-related illnesses. Wollner received a standing ovation from the reviewing stand prolonged by those already standing.
A thoughtful keynote address was given by Marine Col. John Armellino, a 1986 BHS graduate. Armellino, who is employed in the Washington, D.C., area by the Department of Defense, said it was no accident that Arlington National Cemetery can be seen from the capital where lawmakers can see the white markers of graves.
“Just as the hope of a nation’s future is derived from the character of its military, so too is a nation’s soul measured by how it remembers its fallen,” he said.
Following the blessing of the wreath, a 21-gun salute as offered at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, at Broad and Franklin streets, and “Taps” was heard.